Fallen Leaders

I took this photograph years ago. I had this beautiful resin angel that sat in my garden for years. It moved with us from home to home. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened to it. One day, I found it in the garden in many pieces. There were some chunks missing that prevented me from putting it back together. I kept the wings. It was a reminder to me that angels can fall, angels can be broken.

Today’s news about Ravi Zacharias is troubling, at the very… very… least. I was not aware of the accusations that were made against RZ quite some time ago, but became aware prior to the formal investigation that revealed it’s findings report today. For many, today’s news is their first hearing of these accusations. It is a lot to take in. This is hard news. Eye opening news.

Also, it’s not really “new” either. RZ is not the first leader we have witnessed fall.

How do we wrestle with this news? Why do leaders fall? How do we respond?

How Do We Wrestle with News of a Fallen Leader:

First, we are allowed to sit in our shock and dismay. It is OK to not want to believe the news. That’s our natural inclination when accusations and even proven wrongdoing related to people who we esteem becomes public knowledge. We don’t want it to be true. You are a human being, and it is completely normal to react this way. HOWEVER, in these moments that we are processing such revelations we CAN NOT open our mouths in defense of the accused without taking the time to understand the accusations, read the documentation, rest in the findings, and work our own minds through the grief we are now processing.

Second, we must be thankful… even if it is hard… that the truth is being revealed (as in the case of RZ). In cases of other accusations we must pray that truth is revealed, undeniable truth. We must desire for what is done in secret to be revealed so that there is accountability and repentance. Even more so, we must desire for these things to be revealed so that they can be stopped immediately before more damage is done.

Third, we mourn with those who mourn. We mourn with the victims who bravely step forward to expose truth. We mourn with the families of the accused who may have just had their worlds obliterated. We mourn for those who the leader impacted, because we know these failures can create a wake that washes far beyond the immediate circle. These types of things have kingdom wide impact. So, we mourn.

Fourth, we speak what only needs to be spoken. That doesn’t mean a lack of acknowledgement of what occurred or sweeping it under the carpet to be forgotten. It means that we speak only what is good and beneficial. We don’t write about these fallen leaders to prop up our own platform. We don’t gossip about them among our friends. We speak honest truth TO those leaders. We can address the issue among our own platforms with responsibility.

You can share facts without sharing your opinion. You can share resources or links for other victims to seek help. You can speak to the issue without leaning on the person as the crux of your conversation. This is not the time (as if there ever is a time) to shame victims for waiting to speak up. This is not the time to thrust your prideful chest claiming you always knew that person was a problem. Be mindful that your voice into the world is not contributing to the revictimization of those who were harmed, nor to the other extreme offering any sort of justification or downplay to what occurred.

Why Do Leaders Fall?

This is a complex question, that I don’t believe I can full answer. However some general insight from fallen leaders of the past suggest:

  • Lack of maturity, particularly for the position they have attained.
  • No oversight or accountability, a lack of measures/policies in place to protect.
  • Creating an atmosphere that inhibits questioning, surrounding themselves with yes men.
  • Idolizing the leader to the point that you loose your objectiveness to accusations or an ability to see the signs.
  • Forgetting that even the best of leaders are still fallible human beings.
  • Disregarding the change of temptations that come with elevated leadership.
  • Intentionally surrounding themselves with people who don’t object, question, or would protect at all costs
  • Pride going unchecked that allows them to believe they CAN do these things, without retribution.

How Do We Respond:

  • Read the documentation. What are the accusations, who has made them, is there a basis of truth, has there been an investigation?
  • Pray for the victims. Starting with the actual direct victims, but also remember there are other victims in the wake including their families, their church flock or ministry supporters, etc.
  • Learn from the situation. Assess how this could have happened, and then develop systems/protocol to put in place within your own ministry/organization. Determine what red flags might have been present and overlooked. Seek experts who can help you recognize red flags in your organization that may go unnoticed.
  • Pray for your leaders (including yourself if you are in leadership). Pray that that temptation would be removed, that you would have conviction over wrong doing and a desire to repent, etc. Pray for your leaders to be protected not just from those whom would tempt them, but also from their own hearts and desires of the flesh. Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to leaders within your own sphere who may be in sin, and give you the courage to address it.

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